Description: A seasonal classic film (well there are MANY versions) is A Christmas Carol. In it as in the Dickens novel it arose from, Scrooge tells the ghost of his dead business partner, Jacob Marley, that he is not real but is, perhaps “an undigested bit of beef, a blob of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave in you, whatever you are!” I have read that line several times and heard it in various film adaptations (my favourite is the one with Alastair Sim as Scrooge) and always found it amusing and a fitting reflection of Scrooges “Humbug” approach to many things. What I did not know until today is that the Scrooge line actually reflects a game that was popular in the mid 1800’s when Dicken’s wrote the novel. The game was called “What did I eat last night?” and it involves individuals consulting notes they wrote upon awakening that day and telling a group of people about their dreams over the previous evening. The goal of the game was for audience members to guess, or figure out, what the person had eaten the day before that influenced their dreams, perhaps leading to them dreaming of a visitation by the ghost of their dead business partner. Now that is enough Christmas Carol trivia but think about the theory of dreaming it includes … that what you eat can influence your dreams. What do you think of that? What other theories of dreaming have you heard about? There was Freud, of course, with his view that dreams are the “royal road to the unconscious” … to the Id’s domain full of repressed instinctual (sexual) desires that gain expression symbolically in dreams. The problem was that dream interpretation using the many textbooks written to inform that practice only seemed to work when used in the context of therapy where the therapist/dream interpreter knew their client very well. When the dreamer was not known to the interpreter the analysis rarely fit very well if at all. Perhaps you have heard of more recent theories that suggest that dreams are simply random brain activity that we make some sense of the internal experience if we remember it when we wake up or in terms of the Activation Synthesis model where we only apply interpretation or meaning as we wake up. Perhaps, though, there ARE ways in which our recent/current life experiences influence or even drive out dreams. Think about what sorts of dreams you have when you are seriously stressed or dealing with tight timelines and related pressures. You do not need special training in dream analysis to see some connections between your life and your dreams. So, should you be setting aside regular times to reflect on your dreams or perhaps to even discuss them with others? If you did what would be your rationale for doing so … what would be your theory of dreams and dream interpretation? Think about that for a moment and then read the article linked below for a discussion of options.
Source: Sweet dreams are made of this: Why dream analysis is flourishing, Sally Howard, The Observer.
Date: December 4, 2021
Rather than trying to figure out definitively what dreams are, where they come from or how to make the right sense of them it may help to think about this business differently. Our search for purpose and meaning in life is ongoing from our teen years and onward throughout life. Instead of viewing dreams as some mystical source of deeper meaning how about if we look at dreams and dream interpretation as a potentially valuable tool in the self-reflection that is at the core of searches for life purpose and meaning? In that line talking with others about our dreams is really about talking with others about our efforts to better understand ourselves, or situations, and our lives and THAT can be very very helpful. So, instead of worrying what any Freudians around us might think about our dream symbology perhaps we should relax and think of our dreams as opportunities to reflect and perhaps to gain personal insights (and maybe purpose and meaning)!
Questions for Discussion:
- What is the Activation Synthesis theory of dreaming?
- What was Freud’s view of dreams and dreaming and how might his view have led us to set aside dream interpretation at the same time we set aside much of Freud’s theories of human functioning?
- What is or are your theory or theories of dreaming and how might you make use of them or perhaps of some of the other approaches suggested in the linked article to engage in regular self-reflection?
References (Read Further):
Zadra, A., Desjardins, S., & Marcotte, E. (2006). Evolutionary function of dreams: A test of the threat simulation theory in recurrent dreams. Consciousness and Cognition, 15(2), 450-463. Link
Zadra, A., & Robert, G. (2012). Dream recall frequency: Impact of prospective measures and motivational factors. Consciousness and cognition, 21(4), 1695-1702. Link
Pagel, J. F., Blagrove, M., Levin, R., Stickgold, B., & White, S. (2001). Definitions of dream: A paradigm for comparing field descriptive specific studies of dream. Dreaming, 11(4), 195-202. Link
Eichenlaub, J. B., Cash, S. S., & Blagrove, M. (2017). Daily life experiences in dreams and sleep-dependent memory consolidation. In Cognitive neuroscience of memory consolidation (pp. 161-172). Springer, Cham. Link
Bonato, R. A., Moffitt, A. R., Hoffmann, R. F., Cuddy, M. A., & Wimmer, F. L. (1991). Bizarreness in dreams and nightmares. Dreaming, 1(1), 53. Link
Freud, S. (2012). On dreams. Courier Corporation. Link
Freud, S., & Strachey, J. (1996). The interpretation of dreams (p. 217). New York: Gramercy Books. Link
Jung, C. G. (1989). Memories, dreams, reflections. Vintage. Link
Wamsley, E. J., & Stickgold, R. (2011). Memory, sleep, and dreaming: Experiencing consolidation. Sleep medicine clinics, 6(1), 97-108. Link
Wamsley, E. J. (2013). Dreaming, waking conscious experience, and the resting brain: report of subjective experience as a tool in the cognitive neurosciences. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 637. Link